125 Years Ago

October 1887: Judge David Depue, in charging an Essex County grand jury, declared that a law exempting certain individuals from the state’s ban on gaming was unconstitutional and told the jurors to indict as if it did not exist. In no other way could the law’s constitutionality be tested, he said. “This seems a pretty rough and circuitous way of reaching the solution of the question,” the Law Journal editors remarked. “The result is that such persons must be deemed criminals and punished in spite of the law unless … they can convince the higher court that the law is valid.”

100 Years Ago

October 1912: The Law Journal editors thought overwork was the cause of death of leading lawyer William Corbin. “He had very knotty problems to solve during the past few years. Some of them grew out of the relations of the Lehigh Valley Railroad, of which he was counsel, and the state, and without doubt the outcome of the attempts at settlement of the Morris Canal question greatly wore upon his nervous system,” they wrote. “His choice undoubtedly was to fall in the harness, and this he did.”

75 Years Ago

September 30, 1937: Future N.J. Chief Justice Arthur Vanderbilt became, at 49, the youngest lawyer ever elected American Bar Association president. A relentless reformer, he led the Essex County Clean Government group that was the principle rival to Jersey City Mayor Frank Hague’s Hudson County machine. He also championed the judicial reforms that would be adopted in the 1947 New Jersey Constitution.

50 Years Ago

September 27, 1962: Newly installed American Bar Association president Sylvester Smith Jr., of Newark, launched a nationwide project designed to assure adequate defense of indigent persons accused of crimes, saying it would be a major effort of his administration. At the time, two-thirds of the states had no organized public defender programs, public or private. There were 110 defender services operating, half of them in California and Illinois, and the rest scattered among 14 other states.

25 Years Ago

October 1, 1987: Dover Township Municipal Judge Steven Russo, who had been admonished in August for accepting plea bargains in violation of a Supreme Court policy, took drastic steps to prevent a recurrence. He posted a notice in his courtroom that read in part, “No plea bargaining is allowed in any case in municipal courts.” Critics said that Russo had been made a scapegoat and that with his new hard line, Dover Township was the only court in New Jersey actually obeying the policy.